I wanted to take this opportunity to write a little more about the awards and encourage everyone to participate in this process.
The history behind the awards will give you a better idea of what this award represents. In June of 2004, following our 20th anniversary
issue, those of us who work at Sea Kayaker were wondering how we could use our anniversary both to honor manufacturers who have worked with us over the years as well as provide some recognition for the products they’ve produced. We had wanted to do something along these lines for quite a while. This sounds easy enough to do, but it was such a deviation from our editorial procedures that we never really got around to it. In our 20th anniversary issue—June 2004—many advertisers shared in our milestone with ads noting the history of their companies. We didn’t give up on trying to find a way to celebrate the notable achievements of the kayaking industry.
We had to do this project in a way that manufacturers and consumers alike would not look at the award and think, “great, you are giving awards to your largest advertiser, your friends or looking to entice the manufacturer to become an advertiser." Believe it or not, we actually do agonize over this stuff. Well the Editors and the Publisher agonize over these decisions. Personally, as the Advertising Manager, giving an award to the larger advertisers or all the advertisers, would just be good business on my part and something I would (and did) encourage. Would you like to guess who immediately was taken out of the decision making process on how these awards were to be given?
I think it was our editor, Chris Cunningham, who finally said, we are a consumer publication, let’s just let the readers decide. We all thought it was a great idea. What better prize could a manufacturer want than being voted as the best by the end users of the product?
In 2004, our anniversary year, we were already planning to print and distribute our biannual Readers Survey in the February 2005 issue, so we tacked on a series of questions for our readers to select their favorite gear and promoted the Readers Choice Awards in the publication.
We thought it would be straightforward enough to ask readers to write in the make and manufacturer of their favorite products—best kayak, PFD, paddle, etc. We’d add up the totals and we’d have an award that accurately represented what our readers indicated was the very best product made for various sea-kayaking related categories.
We learned that we oversimplified a very complex process and underestimated the enthusiasm of our readers! The tabulation on those printed survey forms was a long and painstaking process. We learned a few things about our readers we did not already know. We learned that a lot of people don’t know the manufacturer and model of items such as camp stoves & sleeping bags. We also learned that by providing folks with space on a piece of paper, with a postage paid stamp no less, you can get a lot of letters that have absolutely nothing to do with the questions you are asking.
The good news, however, came after the Reader’s Choice issue—December 2005
—hit the newsstands. The products that won the Readers Choice Award had won the stamp of approval of kayakers and that meant a lot to both readers and manufacturers. We had created a success and now wanted to continue the award in future issues. We decided to poll our readers every three years.
We’re taking your votes now and it is a lot easier to submit yours, it’s all online. Just go to our website and click on the Readers Choice
graphic in the left column. Fill in the blanks for manufacturer and model of just the items you choose to vote on.
Thanks for participating!